clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Buzz Aldrin carried a tiny book with him to the moon

And the rest of the week’s best writing on books and related subjects.

Neil Armstrong’s A-7L lunar spacesuit from Apollo 11 mission on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum July 19, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Welcome to Vox’s weekly book link roundup, a curated selection of the internet’s best writing on books and related subjects. Here’s the best the web has to offer for the week of July 14, 2019.

When Buzz Aldrin embarked 50 years ago on his historic voyage to the moon aboard Apollo 11, he packed a tiny, credit-card-sized book, “The Autobiography of Robert Hutchings Goddard, Father of the Space Age.”

Goddard, who was a physics professor at Worcester’s Clark University, launched the first liquid-fueled rocket in Auburn in 1926 and is generally considered the father of modern rocketry.

For Aldrin, who was the second man to set foot on the moon, there was also a personal connection.

  • Some libraries have started to staff resident social workers, reports NPR:

Libraries have always had far more on their plate than the stereotype of the silence-obsessed introvert who cares only for reordering the fiction section.

Amanda Oliver confronted that disparity head-on after graduating with her library science degree.

”I mean nothing — nothing! — I learned in my master’s program did I put to use on a daily basis,” the young librarian says.

Take a coin from your pocket (I’m assuming you have a coin, if not, get one), and hold it up to the moon. You likely can’t pluck the moon out of the sky and turn it into a coin, so this will have to make do. Say something meaningful to Zorya Polunochnaya, the Midnight Star, while holding your coin. When done, pluck your coin back and carefully put it in a safe place. Carry it with you for the rest of the journey.

Prior to 1889, the highest-quality pencils were left “natural polished.” Manufacturers usually painted their pencils if they were looking to cover up imperfections in the wood. Accordingly, typical paint colors were dark: purple, red, maroon, or black. But Hardtmuth was looking for a way to advertise the caliber of its graphite rather than its wood.

All this raises an important question: Are science fiction writers actually qualified to consult on matters of business and international policy?

The answer is one that divides futurists, writers, and academics. Some argue that there is power in narrative stories that can’t be found elsewhere. Others assert that in our quest for imagination and prediction, we’re deluding ourselves into thinking that we can predict what’s coming.

  • At Electric Lit, Helena Fitzgerald writes in memory of Brazenhead Books, the speakeasy bookstore whose owner Michael Seidenberg died earlier this month:

We knocked on that unremarkable door and it cracked open, belching yellow light and smoke and laughter, and then shut behind me before I had a chance to notice where I was. I looked around and for one brief, nearly-hysterical moment, I thought: this is it, I’ve done it, I fell through the wardrobe and got into another world. The other, better, wilder, secret place had in fact always lived just at the edge of this one, and finally I’d knocked on the right door, performed the right series of accidental choices, and arrived in the place the books promised.

Consider the writer as houseguest. Is it a good idea to invite someone into your home whose occupation it is to observe everything? The writer as host might be no better. Even the most thoughtful guest will undoubtedly interfere with the writer’s productivity during the visit. It’s really no surprise that people who write for a living have given us some of our wisest sayings about a visit’s proper length.

This week in books at Vox, we reviewed Colson Whitehead’s spare, riveting, horrifying new novel Nickel Boys. As always, you can keep up with Vox’s book coverage by visiting Happy reading!

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.